Defense matters

The head coach of the Australian state of Queensland , a fellow Canadian, told us parents and coaches earlier this year, anyone can play defense, it’s easy, offense is hard.

I disagree.

But that’s just my opinion.

Defense wins Stanley Cups and Super Bowls.

Defense takes discipline.

Defense is hard.

I played four years as a linebacker in football and would crush anybody who tried to cross the line.

Any food company knows this, because they do not want to be tomorrow’s headline, just because someone messed up.

This is a picture of my daughter playing defense in practice (thanks Julie). Look at how the goalie is ideally placed, with his foot up against the post and his stick outside the post. Look at the angling Sorenne is using on her teammate.

Those are boring things but they win games.

And help people not barf from food.

This is Sorenne protecting the blue-line last week (thanks again, Julie).

Defense matters.

Food defense + food safety = food protection

Friend of the blog Michéle Samarya-Timm, with the Somerset County Department of Health (Jersey, represent) has written a new paper that will get food safety types excited, because food protection programs involve not only the safety of the food processing facilities in the food supply chain, but Michele portajohnalso the development and use of effective defense measures against intentional contamination.

Michéle writes in Defending the Food Supply: The Basic Recipe that “the term food defense can be a perplexing concept, especially since it represents protecting the food supply from intentional, criminal, and/or malicious contamination. In practice, food safety and food defense overlap in certain respects, but still can be used in a synergistic fashion to build on existing food protection programs.

“For food defense efforts to be effective, though, some common myths must be dispelled and certain resources shared to lay the groundwork for a culture of overarching food protection at local as well as state and federal levels. Among the most important aspects of an effective food defense strategy are the steps taken to: (a) involve the local level; (b) determine vulnerabilities; (c) integrate federal requirements; (d) locate and/or develop essential resources and training plans; and (e) fund the preceding and other initiatives that might be taken.”

The complete paper is available at

In Michéle’s words, “All too often, media reports on stupid, strange or wacky things that are found in food, or showcase idiotic things that employees have done to food. If nothing else, this serves to illustrate how easy it is to intentionally contaminate food products where they are being prepared. Local regulators need to become more actively engaged in integrating food defense into their inspections – especially at resource limited mom and pop type establishments —  and share easy to use and understand educational resources, such as the readily available FDA tools.”

US anti-terror food safety plans costly, unwieldy

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush vowed to draw a protective shield around the U.S. food supply and defend it from farm to fork.

Garance Burke of the Associated Press reports the government has spent at least $3.4 billion on food counter-terrorism in the last decade, but key programs have been bogged down in a huge, multi-headed bureaucracy. And with no single agency in charge, officials acknowledge it’s impossible to measure whether orchards or feedlots are actually any safer.

On Tuesday, a Senate subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine a congressional watchdog’s new report revealing federal setbacks in protecting cattle and crops since Sept. 11. Just days after the 10th anniversary of the attacks, lawmakers are demanding answers about potential food-related threats and reports that the government could have wasted money on languishing agriculture anti-terror programs.

John Hoffman, a former senior adviser for bio-surveillance and food defense at the Department of Homeland Security, who will testify at the hearing, said, "The truth is, nobody’s in charge. Our surveillance doesn’t work yet, our intelligence doesn’t work yet and we’re not doing so well at targeting what comes across the border."

Top U.S. food defense authorities insist that the initiatives have made the food supply safer and say extensive investments have prepared the country to respond to emergencies. No terrorist group has threatened the food supply in the past decade, and the largest food poisonings have not arisen from foreign attacks, but from salmonella-tainted eggs produced on Iowa farms that sickened almost 2,000 people.

Seeking to chart the government’s advances, the AP interviewed dozens of current and former state and federal officials and analyzed spending and program records for major food defense initiatives, and found:

— The fragmented system leaves no single agency accountable, at times slowing progress and blurring the lines of responsibility. Federal auditors found one Agriculture Department surveillance program to test for chemical, biological, and radiological agents was not working properly five years after its inception in part because agencies couldn’t agree on who was in control.

— Congress is questioning whether $31 million the Department of Homeland Security spent to create a state-of-the-art database to monitor the food supply has accomplished anything because agencies are not using it to share information.

— Despite the billions spent on food defense, many of the changes the government put into place are recommendations that the private sector isn’t required to carry out. As a result, it’s difficult to track successes and failures, and the system’s accomplishments are largely hidden from public view.

"Everything that has been done to date on food defense in the private sector has all been voluntary," said LeeAnne Jackson, the Food and Drug Administration’s health science policy advisor. "We can’t go out and ask them what they have done, because they’re not obliged to tell us, so we don’t have a good metric to measure what’s been done."

Food tampering side effects; store morale, sales drop

In Jan. 2010, someone decided it would be a bright idea to put needles in bread at the Calgary Co-op Oakridge Centre on Southland Drive and 24th Street SW, Calgary (that’s in Canada). The store called the cops, temporarily closed, and recalled its bulk bakery products, bulk food items and packaged cheeses.

In Feb. 2010, more needles were found and the same routine happened again.

Yesterday, the responsible “punk” with “a box of pins and a brain half as sharp”  was in a Calgary court, on trial for three counts of mischief causing property damage and five counts of trespassing.

Tatyana Granada, 44, (right, exactly as shown) apparently decided needles-in-food was an appropriate response after being banned from the Calgary Co-op for shoplifting.

Bakery department employee Sandra Grassie testified it all began for her on Jan. 18, 2010, when a customer found a cheese bun with a needle in it, adding,

"Morale was awful because of stuff that was going on. They were watching everybody to determine what was going on. We had to take everything in the bakery, rip it open and check everything."

Clifford Gelowitz, meat supervisor at the store, also said the food tampering was devastating.

"It impacted our sales, it impacted everybody in there because our hours were cut. We actually lost a few employees from our department because sales weren’t there."

The trial continues.

Food tampering closes Ontario grocery store

A grocery store in Listowel, Ontario (that’s in Canada) suddenly closed Thursday after needles were found in fruit and meat.

The contaminated food was found Thursday afternoon at the Food Basics store on Wallace Avenue North in Listowel. The store was closed as a safety precaution on one of the busiest grocery days of the year, the day before Easter Weekend.

Police are urging area residents to inspect food carefully when handling it and before eating it.

The Perth County OPP (that’s the Ontario Provincial Police, not the dudes with horses) criminal investigations unit is looking into the incident and is working with store management and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.